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Science Courses

In CTY science courses, students rediscover the world around them. They learn to ask questions and are challenged to explain their observations. Students develop their own theories, then test and refine them through experimentation. They also share their results with each other in order to develop a deeper understanding of the natural world.

Courses cover special topics that typically are not part of the standard middle or high school curriculum. Students spend at least two hours a day doing laboratory exercises, hands-on activities, or field work. They gather and interpret data, master scientific concepts, and recognize relationships among physical phenomena. In addition to lectures and reading assignments, class activities include oral presentations and writing assignments, particularly formal lab reports. Because of the schedule and small class sizes, instructors are able to adjust planned lessons to allow students to pursue topics that particularly engage their interests. All courses emphasize inquiry-based learning in which instructors facilitate students making their own great discoveries.

Please refer to our Eligibility page for minimum test score requirements for science courses.

Science Courses

Note: Selected biological science courses may include virtual or traditional dissection.

The following science courses are listed below:

Marine Sciences Courses

Note: Marine science courses include shipboard as well as classroom work.

The following marine sciences courses are listed below:

Sample syllabi for all courses are also available with each course description.

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Science Course Descriptions and Syllabi

Anatomy and Physiology

One need only view Leonardo da Vinci’s classic anatomical sketches to recognize the wonders of the human body. Works such as Vitruvian Man, the result of da Vinci’s meticulous observations of dissected cadavers, reflect a natural human interest not only in the body as a whole, but in the workings of its individual parts. Today’s doctors and scientists continue to discover new information about how the various systems of the body function and interact to form an amazing machine.

In this course, students survey the organ systems of the human body: the immune, integumentary, skeletal, muscular, nervous, endocrine, cardiovascular, lymphatic, respiratory, digestive, excretory, and reproductive. Students begin by exploring the levels of biological organization, paying special attention to cells and tissues before delving into each body system. Keeping with the theme that structure dictates function, students not only examine the systems individually, but also investigate their interconnectedness. Students perform a number of labs culminating in the dissection of a fetal pig.

As they develop an understanding of the intricacies of the human body, students also learn scientific techniques employed in the health sciences.

Note: This course is designed for students who have completed only grades 7 or 8. Students who, by this summer, will have completed grade 9 or higher are not eligible.

Sample text: Mader’s Understanding Human Anatomy & Physiology, Longenbaker.

Lab fee: $65

Session 1: Bristol, Easton
Session 2: Bristol, Easton

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Zoology

From microscopic investigation to the basics of veterinary medicine, Zoology covers principles of comparative animal anatomy, physiology, and genetics.

This course begins with an overview of key concepts in zoology as students examine the characteristics of the animal cell and discuss heredity and issues of evolution, including natural selection. They then turn to taxonomy, as they study increasingly complex types of animals. Students gain a solid foundation in comparative anatomy through laboratory dissections of animals ranging from perch to rats. They become familiar with the different systems—digestive, nervous, immune, endocrine, reproductive, and circulatory—in each species they examine.

As students progress through the course, they research and discuss topics including animal behavior, environmental adaptation, husbandry and domestication, and the human impact on animal life—including environmental degradation and species extinction.

In lab work and in the field, students put science into practice: they learn to formulate research questions, gather and analyze data, and interpret results. On field trips to nearby zoos or veterinary facilities, students observe animals and meet with scientists to discuss current medical research and animal care.

Sample text: Zoology, Miller and Harley.

Lab & Field Trip Fee: $95

Session 1: Bristol, Haverford
Session 2: Bristol, Haverford

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Biotechnology

Prerequisite: Successful completion of CTYOnline's Honors Biology, CTY's Anatomy and Physiology, or at least a "B" in high school biology.

The Human Genome Project has already sequenced all of the approximately 20,000 genes in human DNA. How did scientists gather this information? What opportunities does it provide for curing congenital diseases or cancer? What ethical questions does it pose in terms of privacy rights or reproduction? This course introduces students to the biology, technology, and potential of genetics.

Students first review fundamental principles of cell biology and genetics, including mitosis, meiosis, and Mendelian inheritance. Next they turn to the structure and function of DNA and RNA, sources and types of mutations, and genetic biotechnology. In adition to medical applications, students also explore aquatic, agricultural, and industrial applications of biotechnology. Lab work includes isolating the DNA molecule from common bacteria and splitting genes using restriction enzymes. Students also conduct gel electrophoresis, model polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and examine DNA vaccines.

Students explore current research in molecular biology and use their new knowledge to deliberate on the significance of genetics in society and the future of genetic inquiry and technology.

Sample text: Introduction to Biotechnology, Thieman and Palladino.

Lab Fee: $65

Session 1: Bristol, Haverford, Seattle
Session 2: Bristol, Haverford

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Chemistry in Society

From artificial sweeteners in diet soft drinks to batteries in electric cars, applications of chemistry are integral to our everyday lives. In this course, students investigate topics in chemistry as a means to solving simulated real-world problems.

Students begin the course with an exploration of water pollution as they determine the cause of a fishkill in a local river. This introduces them to the periodic table, atomic structure, and chemical bonding. In the laboratory, students investigate solubility and test water samples to identify potential toxins. They end this unit by simulating a town hall meeting to debate how to preserve their water source.

Similarly, students examine alternative fuels, the biochemistry of food, and pharmaceuticals using real-life scenarios simulated in the classroom. For instance, students may conduct calorimetric experiments and prepare biodiesel in their investigation of alternative fuels or prepare aspirin during their exploration of the healing and toxic properties of pharmaceuticals.

This course emphasizes learning concepts in a laboratory setting to demonstrate how chemistry affects our everyday lives. Students leave the course better prepared for high school chemistry and with a greater understanding of how chemistry is used to improve the world around them.

Note: Students should not take this course if they have already taken high school chemistry.

Sample text: Chemistry in the Community, American Chemical Society.

Lab Fee: $65

Session 1: Bristol, Easton, Haverford
Session 2: Bristol, Easton, Haverford

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The Physics of Sports

How does a pitcher get a baseball to curve in flight? Why does an ice skater spin faster when she pulls her arms in? How can Tony Hawk land a “900,” a trick involving the completion of two-and-a-half aerial revolutions on a skateboard? Physics holds the key to answering these and other fascinating sports questions.

In this introductory physics course, students use sports to explore mechanics: kinematics, dynamics, momentum, energy, and power. For example, students may experiment with billiard balls as they investigate collisions and conservation of momentum. They may study centripetal forces to determine how fast a race car driver can take a turn. Or they may use kinematics and projectile motion to discover the best angle to shoot a basketball. For each physics concept studied, students explore real-world applications in sports.

Through lectures, hands-on activities and labs, simulations, mathematical problem sets, and research projects, students develop a strong understanding of classical physics and learn the principles that give star athletes an edge over their competitors.

Sample text: Gold Medal Physics: The Science of Sports, Goff.

Lab Fee: $65

Session 1: Bristol, Seattle
Session 2: Bristol, Seattle

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Principles of Engineering Design

From the world’s tallest tower, Burj Khalifa in Dubai, built to sustain high winds and temperatures up to 122 degrees Fahrenheit, to the Shanghai Maglev, the world’s fastest commercial train that can cover nineteen miles in just over seven minutes, humanity’s unending quest to find the best, most efficient, and cheapest means to make human life better has created engineering marvels.

Students in this course work primarily in teams to solve real-world and simulated problems in the field of engineering. This study requires a synergy of mathematical knowledge, scientific thinking, and engineering design skills. Students first examine actual engineering projects to see how a vast body of human knowledge is applied to solve problems. For example, students may analyze aircraft design to discuss how composite materials are used to make modern vehicles lighter and stronger; how innovations in energy technology make electric vehicles more efficient and viable; and how bridges are made to withstand extreme stress and wind pressure. Students then design, construct, and test their own working models and prototypes, such as amphibious vehicles, solar-powered cars, bridges, or skyscrapers.

As part of the engineering design process, students weigh economic and ethical considerations along with technological ones and submit written technical reports. They also discuss and compare their projects to determine avenues for design improvements. Students leave the class with a broader view of the field of engineering and a deeper understanding of the day-to-day work of engineers.

Sample text: Engineering Design: An Introduction, Karsnitz, O'Brien, and Hutchinson.

Lab Fee: $65

Session 1: Bristol, Easton, Haverford, Santa Cruz, Seattle
Session 2: Bristol, Easton, Haverford, Santa Cruz, Seattle

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Introduction to Astronomy

In the seventeenth century, Galileo looked into the sky with a simple pair of lenses and saw the moons of Jupiter—a discovery that had a profound effect on astronomy. As in Galileo’s time, the past eighty years have been filled with far-reaching discoveries, enabling a deeper understanding of the universe in which we live.

In this course, students investigate light, optics, and other areas of physics employed in the study of modern astronomy. They start their tour of the universe learning about the planets in the solar system, examining their physical, chemical, and geological properties, as well as the mathematics of orbiting bodies.

Students then use the visual and calculated stellar brightness scales to calculate distances to stars. They investigate the lifecycle of stars, including the Sun, by plotting sunspots and distinguishing solar types based on temperature, color, and luminosity. Additionally, students learn about the evolution of galaxies and use data from drifting galaxies to approximate the Hubble Constant. Finally, they discuss exotic objects such as quasars and black holes.

To reinforce concepts learned in class, students visit a local observatory, planetarium, or science center, combining theory with practical applications of astronomy.

Note: Students in this class should have a strong background in pre-algebra. Completion of Algebra I is recommended, though not required.

Sample text: The Essential Cosmic Perspective, Bennett et al.

Lab & Field Trip Fee: $95

Session 1: Bristol, Santa Cruz
Session 2: Bristol, Santa Cruz

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Volcanoes

The 1883 eruption of Krakatoa in Indonesia propelled ash 50 miles into the atmosphere, triggered tsunamis 100 feet high, and was heard 2,200 miles away. The shock wave circled the earth seven times. The eruption not only reshaped the geography of the area, but also lowered average global temperatures by 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit over the next year. In this course, students investigate the volcanoes that shape our planet, examining their geological history and environmental impact.

The course begins with a brief introduction to earth science, including geological layers, plate tectonics, and convection currents. Students then turn to the properties of volcanoes: lava composition, eruption types and their products, and resulting volcanic landforms. Laboratory exercises include magma flow tests, viscosity determination, and prediction of volcanic hazard. Students explore the essential role of volcanism in the evolution of the earth and the moderation of terrestrial climate. For instance, students may study the impact of India’s Deccan Traps on dinosaur extinctions, the continued growth of the Hawaiian Islands, or the geothermal power used by Iceland. They also examine the ways in which volcanoes have impacted human society from the devastation in Pompeii to the rich volcanic soil of Sicily. Additionally, students learn about extra-terrestrial volcanoes.

The course includes an overnight field trip to Mt. St. Helens, where students investigate the effects of the devastating 1980 eruption, including an exploration of the Ape Caves and Lava Canyon. While in the field, they obtain water samples to detect mineral content, visit Johnston Ridge Observatory, and observe and draw the unique stratigraphy of the region. Students explore both the southern and northern sides of the volcano, and spend the night in a local lodge.

Through research, laboratory exercises, and field work, students leave the course with a greater understanding of the science behind the awesome power of volcanoes.

Sample text: Volcanoes: Global Perspectives, Lockwood and Hazlett.

Lab & Field Trip Fee: $150 (Due to the extended field component of this course, the lab and field trip fee is higher than for other science courses.)

Session 1: Seattle
Session 2: Seattle

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Marine Sciences Course Descriptions and Syllabi

The Chesapeake Bay

The Chesapeake Bay, which has over 11,000 miles of shoreline, is both a national treasure and a regional economic engine. How did scientists and policymakers respond to the precipitous decline in blue crabs that led Maryland crab houses to serve crabs from Texas and Louisiana? What is the role of oysters in the Bay’s health, and should we introduce heartier Asian varieties? Is urban or agricultural runoff more responsible for the declining health of the Bay? Students wrestle with these and other critical questions affecting this complex ecosystem.

During the field component, students travel on board the historic 50-foot skipjack Sigsbee to various sites on the Chesapeake. While on board, students employ scientific equipment to analyze water and marine life. As they meet and learn from scientists, watermen, government officials, and natives of the area, students apply their new knowledge in real-world settings. Each day students and staff share the responsibility of setting up and striking camp, cooking, cleaning, and maintaining the ship.

In the land component, students perform lab work and investigations to explore topics such as crab anatomy, physiology, and behavior; estuarine interactions; predator-prey relationships; and the ecological role of the oyster beds. They learn about the watershed, water parameters, and water quality of the Chesapeake Bay. Students leave with a better understanding of the interplay among man, economics, science, and the environment in both the Chesapeake Bay and the world more broadly.

Note: No previous sailing experience is necessary, but this is a physically demanding course that requires a certain level of fitness

Sample text: Life in the Chesapeake Bay, Lippson and Lippson.

Session 1: Baltimore
Session 2: Not offered

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Whales and Estuary Systems

In this course, students learn about the whales at Stellwagen Bank near Boston, Massachusetts, and compare and contrast estuary systems along the northeast coast. During their eight-day field component, students sail and sleep aboard the Lady Maryland, a 104-foot schooner, and may travel through portions of the Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay, Hudson River, Long Island Sound, Narragansett Bay, Peconic Bay, and the North Atlantic Ocean. Throughout their voyage, students employ scientific equipment, such as plankton and neuston nets and video microscopes, to analyze water and marine life in these estuarine environments.

During the land component, students investigate whale anatomy, physiology, adaptation, and behavior. They use DNA fingerprinting as a technique in whale identification and continue their studies in estuarine dynamics.

Participants are involved in all aspects of the Lady Maryland’s operation, including raising sail, navigating, taking the helm, and performing daily ship maintenance. Teamwork is essential for everyone to live aboard this vessel. By the end of the session, students gain firsthand knowledge of the world’s largest mammals and a clearer understanding of their role in the marine ecosystem.

Note: No previous sailing experience is necessary, but this is a physically demanding course that requires a certain level of fitness. While the crew aboard the Lady Maryland will do its best to ensure that students encounter whales during the field component, there is no guarantee of success.

Sample texts: Life in the Chesapeake Bay, Lippson and Lippson; Stellwagen Bank, Ward.

Session 1: Baltimore
Session 2: Bristol

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